New Questions about Dinosaur-Bird Evolution













A newly discovered fossil in China may dethrone
Archaeopteryx as the “first true bird.”

Summary: A long-held theory about the origin of birds may be in trouble
after the discovery of a chicken-sized dinosaur fossil called
Xiaotingiai in
China.  The new fossil suggests
Archaeopteryx may not have been the
“first true bird,” and instead was just another “feathery dinosaur.”

Discovered in 1861,
Archaeopteryx has long been regarded as a major
evolutionary step away from dinosaurs and one of the best examples of
“evolution in action.”  This fossil had attributes of both reptiles and
birds.  In recent years, however, older fossils with similar bird-like features
such as feathers, wishbones, and three fingered hands were discovered
that cast doubt on whether
Archaeopteryx was the first true bird.

After comparing bony bumps and grooves on his newly discovered fossil,
renowned Chinese paleontologist, Xu Xiang, thinks
Xiaotingiai is similar
to
Archaeopteryx, and both should be regarded as feathery dinosaurs
and not birds at all.  Both appear to be a type of dinosaur called
Deinonychosaurs.  Although the origins of the new fossil are somewhat
unclear, having been purchased from a dealer, Prof. Xu says he
recognized the specimen as something very interesting when he first saw
it in a museum that houses more than 1,000 feathery dinosaur skeletons.

Prof. Lawrence Witmer from Ohio U. cautions that there is currently a
great deal of confusion as to where “dinosaurs end and where birds
begin.”  Going back into the late Jurassic, “150-160 million years ago,”
the primitive members of these different species are all very similar, he
says.  New findings can rapidly change perspectives.  "The reality is, that
next fossil find could kick
Archaeopteryx right back into birds. That's the
thing that's really exciting about all of this."

Prof. Mike Benton of the U. of Bristol, UK, argues it is far from certain the
new finding dethrones
Archaeopteryx as the first bird.  "New fossils like
Xiaotingia can make it harder to be 100% sure of the exact pattern of
relationships," he adds.

(Photograph of
Archaeopteryx fossil from Wikimedia, credited to
H. Raab.)

To read the entire article, click on
BBC NEWS.

Comment: Prof. Witmer finds excitement amongst the confusion
regarding the alleged evidence that dinosaurs evolved into birds.  
Despite the confusion, we shouldn’t think that these scientists necessarily
have any doubts that they are looking at transitional species in this
branch of the evolutionary tree.  It appears to be mostly a question of
which “feathery dinosaur” came first.

On the other hand, creationist
Dr. Gary Parker points out some important
things being ignored in most discussions of
Archaeopteryx and the claim
that dinosaurs evolved into birds.  For instance, there is no clue at all as
to how legs were supposed to have evolved into wings.  When wings are
found in the fossil record, they are already fully formed.  Also, no clue at
all as to how scales evolved into feathers.  Whenever feathers are
found, Dr. Parker says, they are already quite complex structures, with
little hooks and eyelets for zippering and unzippering them.

So, what about
Archaeopteryx and the other “feathery dinosaurs”?  
Chances are they were all true birds that happened to have some
reptilian features. Some birds today have reptilian features such as the
ostrich, which has claws on its wings, and the penguin, which has a bony
tail.  Then there is one of my favorite animals, the furry
duckbill
platypus, which is classified as a mammal, but which has a duck-like bill
and webbed feet like some birds.  But it also lays reptilian-like eggs and
has other reptilian features such as a venom gland.  If the platypus were
considered a transitional species, one could have lots of fun trying to
decide what it’s evolving from and what it’s evolving into.

Nobody can argue with the fact that confusion and debates are common
among secular paleontologists whenever some new alleged missing link
is found.  Nobody taking notes was around at the time these creatures
were alive, and no step-by-step record of any evolutionary branch is
available in the fossil record — none that I’m aware of now that the
famed
horse evolution series has been cast into doubt by DNA
evidence.

If you don’t like confusion and uncertainty, then I can heartily
recommend turning to the unchanging Holy Bible and what it says about
where we came from and where we are going.  This sacred book tells us
that birds have always been birds, reptiles reptiles, and humans
humans.  Where we are going will depend upon whether or not we have
come to faith in Jesus Christ as our Savior.  His undeserved gifts of
forgiveness and the promise of a future home in heaven he offers to
everyone.  These gifts become ours the moment Jesus becomes our
personal Lord and Savior.  

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25 Comments

PC wrote: This gets especially complicated when you try to look at the
relative ages of fossil dinosaurs and birds to get a timeline for their
evolution.  there are many feathered dinosaurs that have
characteristics that are thought to be ancestral/more primative to those
of archaeopteryx but they are found in rock strata that were laid down
(we'd say by the flood) AFTER the strata we find archaeopteryx and
even confuciousornis fossils in...ex-velocirapter and sinosauropteryx.
Dr. Parker is a great general resource on a wide variety of topics in
creation studies.  He also has a small museum down in Florida where
he leads fossil hunting trips along the Peace River.  It's a great trip.  He
and his wife are wonderful people.  It is a very family-friendly
experience.  However, to really dive deep into the changes (bones,
beaks, feather types, heart, respiratory system, digits, etc) necessary
to go from birds to reptiles and the story's problems that exist both
logically and paleontologically you must read in Vij Sodera's book
"One Small Speck to Man".  It has a large section on this subject.  It
reads like a textbook and is a great resource for any serious creationist.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------
PC wrote: Another point, it's not just getting the feathers to evolve but
for scales and the multiple types of feathers to show up in the right part
of the body for their function.  Very improbable.
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Nutcracker wrote: Unfortunately, Gary Parker doesn't appear very
familiar with the technical literature re: bird evolution. The gradual
evolution of wings in the fossil record is well documented, with theropod
arms growing gradually longer and with a variety of feathers -- from the
simple to the complex -- appearing in the fossil record. Here's some
technical literature in support of my point. Parker doesn't appear to be
aware of any of it.

http://www.brown.edu/Departments/EEB/EML/files/kevin_zjls00.pdf

http://www.yale.edu/eeb/prum/pdf/Prum_n_Brush_2002.pdf

Interestingly, scientists have also shown that it is possible to manipulate
the genetics of chickens in order to transform feathers into scales, and
vice versa:

http://www.sciencemag.org/content/272/5262/738.abstract

It's a shame all this great work is being ignored. I should add, however,
that at a recent creationist conference, some creationist researchers
finally appear to be coming to grips with the fact that feathered
theropods nicely fill the gap between reptiles and birds, and that the
platypus is, indeed, a mammal as zoologists have been saying for
200 years. See the abstracts here:

http://www.bryancore.org/jcts/index.php/jctsb/article/view/8
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
Jordan wrote: If the bill of the platypus is more like that of a duck than
that of a mammal, the lower jaw should comprise many bones (as in
birds and reptiles) instead of just one (as in mammals). Does anyone
know what the answer is? This could be a neat test of Dr. Kurt Wise's
idea that the platypus is a "mosaic" chimaera created by God, rather
than an example of convergent evolution with ducks. Evolution can't
account for the existence of such chimaeras.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------
The Editor wrote: Unfortunately, Nutcracker, the last two links you
listed require passwords, and the first two links are hardly persuasive.  
One doesn’t have to read very far into the first two articles before
coming across numerous qualifying words and phrases such as
“theoretical predictions,” “are thought.” “comparatively little is known,”
“remain relatively unexplored,” “remain unanswered,” “neither
paleontological nor development evidence yet speaks more than a
whisper about the origin of feathers.”

Focusing on details is often important, but here I think it is more
important to first look at the total picture. The big picture shows that
the numerous “missing links” are, for all practical purposes, still
missing.  When we look at the present living world, the best
evolutionists can do is to point at examples of what scientists call
“microevolution” or which might better be called “variation within a
species or a kind.”  Creationists don’t have a problem with these
examples of limited change.  Evolutionists will say that if you string
enough of these microevolution examples together, you will get
macroevolution or Darwinian evolution, but at the present that belief is
nothing more than that — a belief.  I would ask why we don’t see any
clear examples of intermediate organisms alive and well in the modern
world considering that the forces of natural selection and mutations are
still in play.

So evolutionism, for the most part, has to rely on the fossil record for
these missing links or transitional fossils.  Interpreting fossils can be and
often is a very tricky business.  The above article makes that perfectly
clear.  I am not satisfied either with the answer to the question
creationists have been raising for decades — why would a creature
evolve a partial wing or some other partial structure before it is of any
use?  Sure, some of the partially evolved structures could have been
valuable for some other useful purpose at first, but when one considers
the numerous limbs and branches on the evolutionary tree and the
multitude of intermediate structures that would have had to evolve, it
would seem to require mountains of faith to believe this argument would
hold true except perhaps in a very limited number of these changes.

Creationism and the concept of “created kinds” which allow for only
limited change is, in my opinion, a much more satisfactory way of
looking at our world.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Nutcracker wrote: It's regrettable that you ignored the arguments of
the articles I cited, Editor; pointing out the use of tentative language (a
hallmark of any good science paper) doesn't in any way address the
arguments made therein. The fact of the matter is that the first paper I
cited very clearly demonstrates a continuous filling of morphospace
between non-avian theropod and bird forelimbs, thus refuting the
argument that bird wings "came out of nowhere". The second paper I
cited nicely describes a mechanism for the evolution of feathers from
simpler scales, and gives evidence from the fossil record in support of
its claims. Note also that these papers are both nearly 10 years old.
Many new findings of feathered dinosaurs have been made in that time,
further filling in the gaps, including feathered tyrannosaurids that I don't
think anyone would be so quick to call a "bird". It's a shame that
creationists like Parker don't take the time to familiarize themselves with
this evidence before condemning evolution. It certainly does nothing for
their credibility.

As far as "big picture" thinking is concerned, you yourself just admitted
above that morphological intermediates do, in fact, exist, thereby doing
away with your argument that the "missing links" are still "missing".
Archaeopteryx is exactly the type of animal you would expect to see if
birds are descended from dinosaurs -- a bird with many reptilian
features (e.g., clawed hands, small sternum, teeth, long tail, no alula,
etc.). And the cool thing is that if you go up the evolutionary tree, you
get birds with increasingly more derived features (e.g., loss of teeth,
fusion of a pygostyle, as in Confuciusornis), and if you go back down the
evolutionary, you get dinosaurs with increasingly less derived features
(e.g., shorter arms, simpler feathers, lack of uncinate processes, as in
Sinosauropteryx). The big picture also reveals that there are
morphological intermediates between invertebrates and vertebrates
(e.g., Pikaia and other myllokunmingiids), fish and tetrapods (e.g.,
Eusthenopteron, Tiktaalik, Ichthyostega), amniotes and mammals (e.g.,
Dimetrodon, Thrinaxodon, Probainognathus), etc., etc., etc. So
intermediate forms do exist, they just tend to get ignored in the
creationist literature, which is probably why you think there aren't any.
(Incidentally, AiG mentions "there are no transitional forms" on their list
of Arguments that Creationists Should Not Use.) Now the question is:
WHY do such forms exist? WHY did God create life that looks like it
evolved? WHY are fossils continually filling the morphological gaps
between supposedly distinct "kinds"?

Oh, and as for Jordan's question, the platypus mandible is made of
just a single dentary bone, and therefore fits perfectly in the
evolutionary picture (the possession of eggs is retained from an
amniotic ancestor, and was done away with by more derived mammals
like marsupials and placentals, collectively called therian mammals).
More here:
http://evolution.berkeley.edu/evolibrary/article/evograms_05
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Gerhold L. Lemke wrote: I have Gary Parker's old Grand Canyon
video, quite convincing -- if you don't know all the realities of geology
contradicting it.  The last that I've heard from Kurt Wise is his sending
his True Believers home from a big convention with the mandate: Make
the geology work for Flood catastrophism; focus on it, because, to
date, we haven't done the job!  Is LSI ever going to give us the goods
on such a simple site as you find when asking Google for: Nebraska
rhino ashfall?  A post-Flood event?  Impossible!  A site created by God
as such, aware that someday Bible believers would need a good
reason to argue: Created Thus?  Most probable, perfectly in line with
God knowing even from before Creation that His Son would have to die
for lost souls.  God gives us great mysteries.  How can anybody at LSI
argue that "God would never ..." when, in fact, God tells you that his
thoughts & ways aren't your own?  And if you're giving us a "Bible
perspective" for what you do, as you say, then I'm still waiting
to hear how Gobekli Tepe could be a post-Flood site (with its supposed
Flood limestone) when in fact it best suits Bible time to be the "city" built
by Cain's people after they prospered far beyond Nod.  That was
properly pre-Flood, hence created fossil geology, and limestone caves
such as Shanidar where (created) Neandertal remains exist.  GLL
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------
The Editor wrote: Thanks, Nutcracker, for your reply to my last
comments.  Now for my reply to your reply --

On the tentative nature of the articles you listed. I congratulate the
article writers for their openness.  But with so much uncertainty, this  
means any conclusions must be in the nature of hypothesis and not
fact.  

On birds with reptilian features.  Nobody is denying that there were/are
birds with reptilian features.  That doesn‘t mean they were
intermediates.  You aren’t suggesting, are you, that the ostrich and the
penguin could be intermediate species because they have reptilian
features?  Or the platypus, for that matter?  

On intermediate forms. Where did I admit that there were morphological
intermediates, unless you are referring to examples of microevolution?  
Variation within a species or a kind is observable and poses no problems
for the concept of “created kinds.”  It is a huge leap of faith though to
suggest that examples of microevolution can be strung together in such
a way that, presto, you get a new kind of creature.  Also, you have
misrepresented AiG.  What they said was “It would be better to say there
are no intermediates between two different kinds.”  In other words, a
created kind can include more than one species so that there can be
intermediate forms between those species.  But there can no links  
between two different created kinds, such as a dinosaur and a bird.

On God creating life that looks like it evolved.  Who says so?  I see
many varieties of dogs, for instance, but they all propagate little dogs.  
Where is there a creature that is not a dog but which can be said to be
either a dog ancestor or descendant?  This holds true for the other
forms of life.

On your reliance on the fossil record. This gets us back to where we
started with the original BBC article.  Fossil studies are often adventures
on quicksand.  And similarity does not prove descent.  Have you ever
noticed the amazingly similar body shapes shared by the T. rex and
kangaroos?  Also, don’t forget the neat horse evolution series
paleontologists once thought they had worked out, only to find DNA
problems (see above).

On points you didn’t address.  Why are there no clear-cut examples of
intermediate forms in the modern world like what you think you find in
the fossil record, seeing as how mutations and natural selection are
forces which are still active?  Of what use or value would a partially-
formed wing be to a dinosaur?
----------------------------------------------------------------------------
Dr. Bruce Holman wrote: I wish to point out to Nutcracker that the
papers he has cited do not show a genetic link that parallels the
morphological progression they have shown.  With all due respect to
the diligent work of the authors they cannot demonstrate an
evolutionary link without concurrent and reliable dating and genetic
progressions.  Both of which are impossible given the widely varying
cites that these fossils were found, and given that no actual tissue is
available from the precursor animals.  There are many examples of
morphologically similar animals which have little genetic similarity. I
must reiterate just because we can find a morphological progression in
the fossil record it does not follow that there is an evolutionary link.  If
you approach the fossil record with the preconceived idea that every
variation of species you see has been produced by evolution you might
find support for an evolutionary link between morphologically similar
fossils.  But once again the logic of this step has been shown in many
cases to be wrong for living creatures where we can do genetic
analysis.  We creationists don't believe evolution can produce changes
as wide as what we see in reptiles and birds. And unfortunately the
articles you've cited do not help bridge the gap.  Where is the evidence
that these complex animals can undergo the lateral gene transfer
necessary to produce these effects?  Where is there even an idea (let
alone hypothesis) of a mechanism whereby this might happen?  No, the
creationists are far from being ignorant about the so called evidence
you've presented. They don't cite them because papers like the ones
you've cited don't speak to the point at issue.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Gerhold L. Lemke wrote: This is to answer Nutcracker on WHY God
would have created an appearance of evolutionary descent throughout
Earth's fossil strata.  But first I'd want Warren to ask Google for:
Ceratopsian evolution.  Here, of course, nobody claims that one extinct
species was directly ancestral to the next.  The simple argument is that,
if evolution is true, then over 100,000,000 years of geology you would
expect to find exactly what the geologic record shows us.  If Warren
wants the Flood to have deposited this geology in, say, less than a
month's time, then he should argue for us how this does not make God
a Great Deceiver, where common sense tells everybody that a single
great chaotic event couldn't have deposited individuals of one species
so perfectly together (with nests, even).

In the Ceratopsian record, first down was Yinlong (see Google) reported
in 2004, exactly the perfect specimen to be a first "ancestor."  Higher up
in the Asian record, the Andrews expeditions of some 80 years ago
reported Psittacosaurus (Early Cretaceous) and Protoceratops (whose
commonly found badlands bones could have inspired the myth of a real
griffin).  Finally, at the top of the Cretaceous in America, you have
Triceratops.  Not to forget the dozens of other species throughout the
record, commonly found, being herbivores.  So, yes, I totally agree with
Nutcracker's report, and I'm at gllemke@hotmail.com if you want to write.

As to WHY?  This is speculation, but that's OK, so long as you try your
best to make a proper "fit" with what God does tell us.  (Ask Google for
me, and you'll find my previous writing on WHY in this LSI blog.)  The
Latin "speculor" means to actually look at something to examine it - a
good thing.

1) God says that He (and his truth & love) only is unchanging.  So his
total creation ought to be marked by an appearance of change (which is
what cosmology and the fossil record give us).  God also wants us to
change from error to reality, my hope for the LSI and all other
creationists who would have us "walk by sight" (but it isn't by sight, when
the need for "speculor" is ignored).  Great irony: created geology is
100% creationist.

2) God knows the whole future (so that His Son could agree even before
Creation to be our Savior), so God knew that creationists would make it
their "Bible apologetic" to argue for Flood catastrophism.  So God
created such "problems" as the Yellowstone hot spot and its record of
previous explosions, as at the Nebraska rhino ashfall site.  Not to forget
the excellent mammoth site at Hot Springs SD, also created thus.   

3) God wanted nobody to sin, and God's angels today can't sin.  A
sinless world would overcrowd itself.  We can speculate that, after
maybe 1,000 years of "probation," God intended to "translate" perfect
people (as he took the sinner, Enoch) to heaven.  So God would use all
the spectacular life forms of the fossil record to tell sinless humans: You
can trust me to have prepared an even more wonderful world for you, for
eternity.   

4) God knew that ours would be (!) a sin/death world, where the "laws"
for how things decay and get buried would be in effect.  So, if creation
never included fossil "death," any descendant of Adam & Eve to our
present day could dig down a few feet and so prove an original
deathless creation.  This would be a walk by sight, not in the Word only,
which God gives across the board to all.   

5) God is Creator & Preserver.  Seeing our day, he would want us to
have the (created) hydrocarbons that power our modern age (and make
it possible for the Gospel to go everywhere).  Suppose that so much
carbon was captured by plants etc. during some 1,500 years before the
Flood, as the LSI scenario would require.  Then the carbon would have
to have been available as carbon dioxide in Earth's created
atmosphere, resulting in a super "warming" as on Venus.  Will Warren
ignore this?

6) God only is Eternal, and we say that what is made by a Maker
"reflects" who he is.  So Deep Time ("proved" by a universe at least 42
billion light years across, also by impact craters on moons, planets &
asteroids, and by fossil strata, etc.) would be a perfect, but lesser
"reflection," a thing made being always less than the maker.

Creationists ought to focus on WHEN Deep Time ends and Real Time
(since the Week of Creation) begins in the archeological record.  You
can't do this with sectarian Flood catastrophism, starting with the errant
writing of Ellen White of the SDA.  God would most certainly be a
Deceiver, if the Flood did a raw geology, which God then had to make
look old (with huge cave systems, etc.), the same as if one trashed a
piece of new furniture to "age" it.  But with Created Thus, you can ask
good questions, such as: Why can't Gobekli Tepe be the "city" of Cain,
showing us a real time for nomad clans to meet every summer (following
the creation of Deep Time) before gross idolatry developed?

Being trained in theology (and educated in created realities as well), I
know to keep speculation within the limits of orthodoxy and careful
science.  And I've been told (years ago) from our WELS seminary that
it's OK to speculate so long as you carefully identify all speculation as
such.  Sadly, my Memorial to WELS-2011, asking for authors dealing
with Genesis Prehistory to have the help of others, was set aside.  
Seeing such help being offered on this LSI blog, I thank God.

St. Paul wrote very seriously that in the Church everybody should work
toward agreement, especially in areas where worldly-minded people
would be most able to judge that Christians were "for real."  Augustine
asked for the same thing.  Do it!  GLL
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Gerhold L. Lemke wrote: Thanks, Warren, for posting my WHY?
answers.  There could be more, related to the fact that in every age
God gives Christians solid realities to answer the unbelief of the secular
world.  Please do a blog on Devils Tower, WY, for people to discuss,
because I see it as God's answer for today, correcting error on both
sides.  If end-Flood water eroded it, there should be huge end-Flood
ripple marks NE and east across the flat plains.  There aren't.  If it took
at least a million years of slow erosion to expose the Tower, then
seasonal ice-wedging should have turned it into a rock pile as fast as
it was being exposed.  

Nothing stops you from looking up Gobekli Tepe / Newsweek /
Smithsonian / National Geographic / on Google for a comprehensive
report on realities from the time of Cain's people leaving Nod.  This is
a real site.  We believe in a factual Bible.  If the world sees Christians
refusing to relate the two (while claiming to be tops on everything) then
people will know us for "a broken reed," and reject our Bible
as well.  (I've made the dates 2,000 years more recent by supposing
that young grazing animals snuffing up fallen wild grain ate topsoil black
dust poor in C-14.)  We don't want anybody to walk away, laughing.  GLL
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Nutcracker wrote: In response to Dr. Holman's comments, while I
agree that it would be nice if we could further bolster the dino-bird
relationship with genetic data (a difficult thing to do in light of
incompletely preserved fossils), the evidence presented in favour of
the dino-bird connection is primarily morphological in scope, and as
such, must be dealt with on those grounds. It isn't acceptable to
dismiss the morphological evidence simply because you would prefer
genetic evidence. Instead, you must present an alternative, non-
evolutionary explanation of the morphological evidence at hand that
does a better job of accounting for the data than the evolutionary
scenario. And I'll point out that, while I agree that morphologically
similar organisms sometimes differ markedly in their genetic makeup,
these morphological similarities tend to be very superficial (e.g.,
similarities between platypus and duck bills). By contrast, the
similarities between birds and dinosaurs go deep, as I've already
pointed out. Moreover, given that genotype largely corresponds to
phenotype, one would expect the genetic data to support the
morphologic data, rather than contradict it.

(And I have absolutely no idea why you think lateral gene transfer has
anything to do with what we're discussing.)
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------
Nutcracker wrote: I thought I had submitted this response earlier, but
I guess it didn't go through. My response to Dr. Holman refers back to
this post...

Hi Editor,

You speak of hypotheses and theories almost as though they are of less
importance than facts in the scientific enterprise, but this couldn't be
further from the truth. Science isn't just about collecting facts -- it's about
devising theories to explain those facts, and as such, developing robust
theories is one of the end goals of science. Moreover, just because
something is theoretical doesn't make it untrue. Germs, gravity,
heliocentrism, and atoms all remain theories (not facts), but I would be
surprised if you rejected any of them on that basis. By the same token,
the theory that birds descended from dinosaurs shouldn't be rejected
because it's "just a theory". That argument demonstrates a basic
misunderstanding of what science is all about. It also suggests an
unwillingness to deal with the evidence in favour of dinosaur-bird
relatedness. I say this not to be discourteous, but to emphasize that you
still haven't accounted for the evidence I cited above supporting the
dino-bird connection.

I'm glad you agree that birds -- particularly fossil birds like
Archaeopteryx, Confuciusornis, and Jeholornis -- have dinosaurian
features like claws and long tails (i.e., there's morphological continuity
between supposed "baramins"). In fact, living birds and dinosaurs
share many fundamental similarities exclusive to other animal groups,
including hollow bones, air sacs in the vertebrae, retroverted pubic
bones, feathers, similar sleeping postures, nesting behaviours,
wishbones, semi-lunate wrist bones, etc. We're talking about much
more than just superficial similarities, here (like the similarity between
the outline of a kangaroo and T. rex, as you suggest). We're talking
about the nitty-gritty details of behaviour and anatomy. Interestingly,
most living birds even pass through a developmental stage inside the
egg in which they possess long tails and three-fingered hands, just like
a dinosaur. If you believe that dinosaurs and birds were created
separately, you really must ask yourself why they nevertheless share so
many distinct features in common. Why do birds possess a three-
fingered, long-tailed stage early in development, only fuse up the hand
and reduce the tail later on? Why do birds possess the genes for
dinosaur-like teeth if they never even turn them on? Why did so many
distinctly non-avian dinosaurs have feathers? Evolutionary theory has
an answer: birds have dinosaur-like traits because birds evolved from
dinosaurs (i.e., birds ARE dinosaurs) and retain signs of their
dinosaurian heritage. Yes, this is "just a theory", but it's a powerful
theory that explains the evidence. In fact, so far it's the ONLY theory
that explains the evidence. By contrast, attributing the similarities
between dinosaurs and birds to the whim of the Creator doesn't explain
the evidence at all -- it explains AWAY the evidence. If you asked
someone why the sky is blue and they responded "because God made
it that way", would you not feel like a more complete explanation
(including a mechanism) is owed?

Finally, in response to your last comments directed towards me, can I
ask what you would expect to see by way of intermediate forms in the
living world, just so I can be sure what you're asking for? What do you
think one would look like, if it existed? I would think that all species are
intermediate if they go on to produce descendant species. Just like I'm
intermediate between my parents and my children.

And by the way, 'half-a-wing' is, in fact, quite useful. As shown by Ken
Dial (http://dbs.umt.edu/flightlab/pdf/WAIR.SCIENCE.pdf), birds with
clipped wings, while unable to fly, are nonetheless able to run up
vertical inclines (e.g., tree trunks) to safety, which would provide an
obvious elective advantage. Wings, no matter how well-developed,
also probably aided in nest-brooding, as suggested by this nesting
Oviraptor fossil (http://earthobservatory.nasa.
gov/Features/Fossils/Images/oviraptor_
nest.jpg). Note that this particular specimen doesn't preserve feathers,
but we have other oviraptorid specimens that do. The elongate feathers
of the wings would have protected the eggs and kept them incubated.
Gliding also comes to mind. There's obviously a lot more to wings than
just flying. The first birds to appear in the fossil record were probably
very clumsy fliers, given their small breastbones and correspondingly
underdeveloped flight muscles.
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
The Editor wrote: Greetings, Nutcracker.  Thank you for your
response.

On theories and hypotheses.  I’m all for theories and hypotheses.  We
wouldn’t have put men on the moon or achieved our great medical
advances without theories and hypotheses.  But many theories and
hypotheses, such as alchemy, horse evolution and  recapitulation,
never pan out.  Therefore we should not be teaching the theory of  
evolution with all its weaknesses to impressionable young people as if it
were fact, like the law of gravity.

On similar features in different species.  What’s wrong with crediting
similar features to a common Creator?  Art experts usually have no
trouble identifying similar style elements in different paintings by the
same artist.  In fact, I see similarities in the writing styles of you and a
gentleman called Jordan that make me suspect that you two might
perhaps be one and the same (but I’m just hypothesizing now and I am
not a linguistics expert).

On half-wings.  Your idea on the value of a partial wing is interesting,
but it would seem to a round-about way of becoming better runners.  
The easier way to run faster would be to evolve longer, stronger legs
and more efficient circulatory and respiratory systems and not a
completely new body part.

On the fossil record.  Again, we get back to the fossil record, which you
must admit is often a source of controversy, even among secular
paleontologists--Ida, Ardi, the Indonesian hobbit, etc.  And you must also
admit that probably the world’s most famous paleontologist, the late
Stephen J. Gould, appeared to be admitting the poor record of fossils in
documenting the theory of evolution when he wrote: “The extreme rarity
of transitional forms in the fossil record persists as the trade secret of
paleontology. The evolutionary trees that adorn our textbooks have data
only at the tips and nodes of their branches; the rest is inference,
however reasonable, not the evidence of fossils.”  I remember Gould
was viciously attacked by some evolutionists at the time for appearing to
give aid and comfort to the enemy--creationists.  I believe you are
greatly overstating the case for dinosaur-bird evolution because nobody
was around at the time doing a careful analysis, and looking at the
subject “millions of years” later has its limitations.  I must repeat what
Dr. Holman asked, “Where is there even an idea (let alone hypothesis)
of a mechanism whereby (dinosaur-bird evolution) might happen?”
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
Gerhold L. Lemke wrote: - It's frustrating, reading creationist work
such as yours, knowing the physical realities that you ignore.  You
mention the "Ida" fossil find from the world-class Messel site in
Germany.  In your scenario, this has to be a post-Flood ecosystem,
but that is 100% impossible, for every good reason.  So, for our Bible
History chronology to be true, Messel fossils all had to be Created
Thus, complete with lack of Carbon-14.  This, of course, proves LSI in
error, so what do we get?  Always, the Tar Baby trick.  So sad.  GLL
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
Gerhold L. Lemke wrote: Warren - or anybody agreeing with LSI
Flood geology - please tell people who know their science how the
Messel site, with Ida, and extinct horses, could be anything but
Created Thus, for the Bible to be true.  At a Milwaukee funeral
yesterday, a WELS pastor told me how, when teaching Genesis
1 - 11, he made the point that he could only explain the text, not the
science.  The problem being that when uninformed clergy try to do it,
their wrong ideas discredit (his word) them and discredit Scripture in
the hearing of others.  My secular friends know this to be so true.
So, guys, will LSI just ignore Messel realities?  GLL
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Nutcracker wrote: Hi Editor,

Crediting similarities between two groups to a common creator doesn't
work because it doesn't make sense. Sure, artists can create similar
works, but they can also create vastly different works and dabble in
different styles and media (think Andy Warhol or Leonardo da Vinci).
There's nothing that constrains an artist to producing similar works.
And yet when we look at life on earth, we see that it is constrained,
and that it is constrained to fit a nested, hierarchical pattern. There's
nothing about the "common creator" argument that explains this
pattern (but descent with modification does). Think about what you're
saying: if similarities are evidence for a common creator, are
differences therefore evidence AGAINST a common creator? Did the
Christian God create all furry animals and the Hindu gods create all
scaly animals? How does appealing to a common creator explain why
dinosaurs and birds have feathers, air sacs in their vertebrae, and
semi-lunate carpals, whereas other reptiles don't? The argument is
nothing more than a trite platitude. It's like when creationists refer to
created "kinds" when they have no idea how to objectively define
what a "kind" is.

I recently found two youtube videos that clearly explain what I'm saying:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Izl5BB2AkZE
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J3yDOp8Dv8Y

Regarding your other comments, I don't understand why you're
suddenly talking about running faster in the context of wing evolution
(I never mentioned such a thing), and your bit about Gould is just a
tired old quote mine (debunked in detail here:
http://www.talkorigins.
org/faqs/quotes/mine/part3.html). Many creationists love to quote
Gould, but I wonder how many of them have honestly read his work
and understand it. I'll finish by once again pointing out that despite
everyone's objections to dino-bird evolution, no one has provided an
alternative explanation to account for the morphological continuity
between dinosaurs and birds, even though everyone appears willing
to admit that such continuity exists. Evolution predicts this continuity
and provides many possible mechanisms to account for it (e.g., natural
selection, sexual selection, genetic drift, etc.); creationism doesn't.

(Incidentally, I'm not Jordan, but you can believe what you like.)
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------
The Editor wrote: Hello Nutcracker,  It is not debatable that artists
can produce quite different works which still show similarities in style
that art experts can usually detect.  It is also not debatable that an
all-powerful God can create vastly different animals with some
similarities, My point in bringing it up is to show that there is an
alternative to believing that similarities prove evolution.  I am
not
saying that taken by itself, this comparison does prove creation.

If you choose to believe that Gould was misunderstood in the above
quotation, what then do you have to say about the theory he
developed along with Niles Eldredge?  Their theory called
punctuated
equilibrium suggests that for most of the history of life on this planet
there has been a situation of stasis in which there has been little or no
evolutionary change, while evolutionary changes when they do
happen, happen so rapidly they leave little or no fossil evidence.  
In other words, the theory was designed to explain WHY there are
the systematic gaps in the fossil record.  At least some evolutionists
at the time saw this as indirectly supporting creationism and verbally
attacked Gould and Eldredge for it.  Unfortunately, I don’t remember
who these attackers were anymore, but I did make note of it in an
editorial I wrote in 2002.  However, no creationist I know of denies
that Gould believed in evolution.  

It’s true that because nobody was around taking notes when God
created living organisms, we can’t be sure exactly what constitutes
the various “created kinds.”  To some extent it’s a judgment call, just
like figuring out today what constitutes a “species.”  But creationists
are convinced that there are no transitional forms between main
groups of animals such as dinosaurs and birds.

As for the connection between wing evolution and running faster, you
cited a study which you said showed “birds with clipped wings, while
unable to fly, are nonetheless able to run up vertical inclines (e.g., tree
trunks) to safety,”  I took this to be a response to my challenge to name
an evolutionary advantage for having a partially developed wing.  
Perhaps I misunderstood what you meant, but it suggested to me that
you believe that partial wings helped the birds to run better.  My point
was that for the purposes of improving the ability to run, evolving
longer and stronger legs and more efficient respiratory and circulatory
systems, which are already present, would seem to be easier than
changing a body part (legs or arms) to an entirely different part
(wings).
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Gerhold L. Lemke wrote: Warren - Where you write that "creationists
are convinced ..." that persuades nobody.  Nutcracker's point
remains: fossils show a "nested" set of different particulars (as from
one branch of dinosaurs into avian specifics).  You saw me long ago
making a comparison with the BINGO card, where bats, for instance,
would be in the mammal rank, and the file would be "flying."  You can
guess if 20% or 80% of the BINGO card has been filled up, or not, by
paleontology.  It's just a losing argument saying "no links," where what
you want is to persuade thinking people to give the Creator their hearts.
The secular media is always reporting links, and it takes just a minute of
reading to firm up a secular worldview a bit more.  Please - I'm still
waiting for comment from anybody on LSI as to why God supposedly
let the Flood set down the ceratopsian line to appear as if it was totally
a product of inheritance and improvement.  That's a chaotic Flood,
which would have required God's intervention to make it as is.  LSI
remains a "fringe" group.  GLL
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
The Editor wrote: Gerhold, do I understand from your comments that
you now accept the reality of fossils and no longer believe they were
fake things  put into the ground ready-made by God at the time of
creation?  Wecome to the real world!
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Nutcracker wrote: Hello Editor,

I understand that you like the 'common creator' argument and that you
think it has some sort of explanatory power, but you still haven't shown
this to be the case. How does the common creator argument explain
why dogs and cats are more similar to one another than either is to,
say, a frog? If you say it's because dogs and cats have a common
creator, then are you also saying that frogs have a different creator?
f not, and if your position is that a single creator created ALL of life,
then your explanation has no power because it explains everything.
And a theory that explains everything explains nothing. The common
creator hypothesis is unfalsifiable.

You're absolutely right in saying punctuated equilibrium was put
forward to account for periods of stasis in the fossil record. The
traditional (Darwinian) view of evolution was that it always occurred
gradually and incrementally. However, Eldredge and Gould (E&G)
noted that not only does such gradual change not typify the fossil
record (although it is present), but that it SHOULD NOT typify the
fossil record, given what we know about speciation. According to
E&G, speciation usually happens allopatrically rather sympatrically,
and therefore speciation events in the fossil record should appear
abrupt. Gould very obviously (explicitly) accepted transitions between
higher levels of organisms, though. A good example is the evolution
of major clades of ceratopsian dinosaurs that Gerhold cited for you
earlier. To try to twist Gould's words to make it appear like he believed
there are no transitions in the fossil record is dishonest.

I'm glad you're willing to admit that the delimitation of "kinds" is a
judgment call. But why should this be if "kinds" have hard boundaries?
You're right to say that defining what a species is is difficult -- yet the
reason why it's difficult is that species have no boundaries. They
transmutate. They change over time. They evolve. Ring species are a
perfect example of this. If "kinds" are real biological entities, then we
should be able to objectively define them in such a way that we can tell
one "kind" apart from another. If the definition of a "kind" is left to the
discretion of the individual, then who are you to say that birds couldn't
have evolved from dinosaurs? I can just define "kind" in such a way as
to include birds and dinosaurs (and all animals) if I like. This is what I
mean when I say that the creationist "kind" is just a meaningless
platitude. To say that no change occurs between kinds doesn't  mean
anything if you can't tell me how to objectively tell "kinds" apart.

Regarding your last point, 'half-wings' in the context of wing-assisted
incline running (see the article I linked to above) doesn't actually allow
the birds to 'run better' in the sense that it allows them to run faster.
Rather, the half-wings provide minimal lift, allowing the birds to run up
vertical inclines. Your argument that this cannot be an example of an
evolutionary adaptation because it's "easier" to evolve longer legs or
more efficient breathing is moot -- the fact remains that half a wing is
useful. I also don't know why you're saying that a wing is somehow
qualitatively different from an arm (calling it "an entirely different part").
It isn't. A non-avian dinosaur's arm and a bird's wing have all the same
bones -- they're homologous structures. The only difference is that a
wing has fused finger bones and is covered in feathers. And we can
see very clearly how the wing evolved in the fossil record: simple
feathers appeared first, followed by the lengthening of the forelimb
and evolution of the semi-lunate carpal, followed by the structuring and
elongation of the remiges, followed by the fusion of the hand. The
evidence for the evolution of the wing is overwhelming. It quite obviously
wasn't just magically 'poofed' into existence fully formed.
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
The Editor wrote: Greetings, Nutcracker.
I believe our discussion has just about run its course. It appears you
are not going to budge from your belief that the blind process called
evolution could have created the amazing creatures we see all around
us including ourselves, while I choose to believe it all can be credited
to an intelligent Creator.  I hope you will watch the presentation
tomorrow by Cornell University’s Dr. John Sanford, one of the world’s
leading geneticists and designer of the “gene gun,” who has
convincingly shown that harmful mutations in our DNA are actually
causing humans (and presumably all other creatures) to decline,
genetically speaking.  This is the opposite direction, of course, that
evolution theory would have us going.  The presentation is scheduled
for 8:30 p.m. Thursday (Eastern time - 7:30 central time) at  
http://www.biblediscoverytv.com/
and supposedly will be available later in the archives for viewing.  The
entire schedule of presentations can be found at
http://creation2011.com/schedule.html

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Nutcracker wrote: Sorry that you're not interested in continuing the
discussion, Editor. For what it's worth, evolution and creation aren't
mutually exclusive concepts. The former is a mechanism, the latter is
an attribution of agency. If you believe that a natural process like
evolution excludes God, I wonder if you think other natural processes
like weather, human development, or gravity also exclude God.

I won't be able to watch the presentation you advertised, but I'd be
interested in reading your summary of the talk later on. It should make
for a good blog post.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Gerhold L. Lemke wrote: Warren - I think you misunderstood, as I try
to express what secular folk would be asking.  Please don't keep calling
created fossils "fake," since I gave your readers a list of good reasons
why a God of all love would want to include them in Creation With
Apparent Age.  Say how any of my reasons go against anything in
Scripture, if you want to add something of worth to the discussion.  The
reality is that, if God acted in the Flood so that the fossils give every
evidence of change through time, then that would be the Great Fake,
and God a liar.  Focus on that, please.  GLL

----------------------------------------------------------------------------
Dr. Bruce Holman wrote: I hope I can throw a last comment to
Nutcracker before he stops accessing this discussion.  I'm sorry I
haven't been more prompt with my response.

I have to admit as most creationists do that some variation occurs
through natural selection. Such changes are believed to involve
changes in the expression of genes latent in a species genome. But
for significant changes it is clear that additional genetic material is
necessary.  Evolution by natural selection has no mechanism.  Such
a mechanism in prokaryotes can be lateral gene transfer, but such a
mechanism is not available eukaryotes.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Nutcracker wrote: Dr. Holman,

What do you make of the research that has shown that gene
duplication (which occurs fairly regularly) can and does lead to novel
functions?

See here:
http://pandasthumb.org/archives/2011/01/gene-duplicatio-1.html

From your comments, it appears as though you're unfamiliar with this
research. Your position that no mechanism exists to produce novel functions
is pretty clearly outdated.

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Not necessarily.  Severe neurological
problems can develop in cats if a dog’s
flea control product is used on them.  
Read a product’s label carefully to
make sure it is safe for felines.

Source:
Spry (July, 2011)
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About Me - Warren Krug
The Editor

Decades ago I attended a
so-called Lutheran
university where I could
have lost my faith. The
science professors promoted
the theory of evolution and
made fun of anybody who
believed in the account of
creation as presented in
the book of Genesis.
Thanks be to God, some
creationist literature and
the Bible soon helped get
me back on the right track.
Ever since then I have
taken an active interest in
the creation/evolution
controversy.

Background image from NASA